Republic of Singapore Navy
Polytechnic | Republic of Singapore Navy

At the Frontline of Singapore’s Maritime Defence

Republic of Singapore Navy
From two wooden ships in 1907, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) now boasts a fleet of modern warships that are capable of defending Singapore’s waters today. Come 2020, eight Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs), designed and built in Singapore, will be replacing the Fearless-class patrol vessels which have been in service for about 20 years.

The RSN has indeed come a long way from its birth on 5 May 1967, when it had just two wooden ships and a handful of volunteers to defend Singapore’s maritime interests. Today, the RSN is ushering in a new era with the new LMVs, designed for speed, efficiency, and versatility which are capable of undertaking a much wider spectrum of operations as the maritime domain gets more complex and challenging.

We caught up with one of the pioneer crew of this latest class of warship, Military Expert 2 (ME2) Alvin Chia, Weapon Systems Supervisor of RSS Unity, to gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be at the frontline of Singapore’s maritime defence.

Military Expert 2 (ME2)
Alvin Chia Yong Meng

Military Expert 2 (ME2) Alvin Chia Yong Meng
Weapon Systems Supervisor,
RSS Unity (Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel)
Diploma in Electrical Technology
Ngee Ann Polytechnic

What are your main roles and responsibilities as a Weapon System Supervisor on board RSS Unity?

As a Weapon Systems Supervisor of RSS Unity, I am responsible for the readiness, maintenance, and logistics of the weapon systems and the competency of the weapon system operators on board. As a pioneer crew, I am also responsible for working with various defence agencies and industry partners such as DSTA and ST Marine to install and integrate the weaponry systems on board.

What is the role of the LMVs?

The LMVs are under the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF), which comprises the patrol vessels, mine countermeasure vessels and the Accompanying Sea Security Teams (ASSeTs). Together, these naval capabilities shoulder the responsibility of ensuring round-the-clock surveillance of the Singapore Strait. Since serving on board RSS Unity, I have come to gain a deeper appreciation of the sea to Singapore. Sailing through our congested waters constantly reminds me of the importance and complexity of maritime security given Singapore’s geography and history as a maritime nation.

What motivated you to join the RSN?

I got to learn about the Navy from a friend who shared with me his positive experiences in the service. His stories of the strong Navy family culture, overseas missions and the focus on teamwork compelled me to join. I have been in the Navy for more than 10 years now, and I have not looked back since.

Share a few memorable moments in your career with the RSN.

The Navy has given me the wonderful opportunity to be a pioneer crew of two warships, RSS Formidable, a Formidable-class frigate and RSS Unity. Bearing witness twice to history being made are experiences that I would not exchange for anything else in the world because being part of the journey of seeing the building up of a ship is fascinating, fulfilling, and memorable. If given the chance, I will do it all over again.

“The most fulfilling aspect of being in the RSN is knowing that you are making a difference in protecting Singapore.”

What are some of the developmental opportunities one can look forward to in the RSN?

The RSN provides job rotation every few years, allowing its servicemen and women to be given opportunities to serve in different roles, to broaden our minds in different areas. Personally, I have served in various roles ranging from being an operator, supervisor on board ships to being an Event Coordinator where I ran events to promote the Navy. In addition, the RSN also sends us for regular upgrading courses. For instance, I recently attended the Advanced Specialisation Course (ASC), which imparted skills and knowledge on leadership and management, and I found it useful in my current role as a supervisor. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and what made it sweeter was emerging top of the class, something I never thought would be possible since I am not exactly book-smart.

What keeps you motivated?

Singapore’s strategic location makes it important that we defend our waters, to ensure our survival as a small maritime nation. I take pride in knowing that what I do helps to safeguard our country and Singaporean way of life.

What advice do you have for those considering joining the RSN?

The most fulfilling aspect of being in the RSN is knowing that you are making a difference in protecting Singapore. Anyone who is keen on a dynamic career with plenty of opportunities to learn and grow, I encourage you to join the RSN. Once you do, embrace the close-knit family culture in the organisation, remember to be a team player, and always remain open to continuous learning.